History of parity violation experiment

Authors(s):Richard L. Garwin and Leon M. Lederman Publication:Nature Publication Date:April 10, 1977 Publisher: Citation:Nature 386, 542 - 543 (10 April 1997) Link:https://www.nature.com/articles/386542b0

Sir- The Commentary article' "Parity and chivalry in nuclear physics" refers to the two first publications demonstrating the nonconservation of parity in the weak interactions. The article is summarized by  the subhead "Forty years ago, the world of physics was stunned by the discovery that nuclear beta-decay does not respect symmetry between left and right. But the credit for this conclusion has not been properly attributed." The purpose of the Commentary was " ... to state for the record that the NBS [National Bureau of Standards] parity violation experiment was a collaborative team effort in which nuclear physicists and cryo-physicists pooled their knowledge and expertise to carry out an experiment proposed by Lee and Yang, thus confirming their hypothesis that parity is not conserved in β-decay."

We have always regarded this epochal experiment as a team effort. When we wrote in 1957, "[W]e are also indebted to Professor C. S. Wu for reports of her preliminary results in the Co-60 experiment which played a crucial part in the Columbia discussions immediately preceding this experiment", we did not intend to apportion credit among the authors of the Letter reporting the Co-60 results. Our own experiment, "Observations of the failure of conservation of parity and charge conjugation in meson decays: the magnetic moment of the free muon", was spurred by Wu's Friday-lunch report of the status of the Co-60 experiment and was performed that Friday night, 4 January 1957.